Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to how personal responsibility and social distancing is the key to ending the spread of the coronavirus. USA TODAY
The bright spot at the end of the tunnel is now just one week away for Lebanon businesses with Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement Friday that the county will move to the green phase of his coronavirus pandemic reopening plan on July 3.
For business owners, that means they will be able to reopen without risking their business licenses or fines from the state, though CDC guidelines will still have to be followed. For residents, moving to the green phase means they will be able to get their haircut, work out in a gym or eat inside a restaurant in their home county.
Since several central Pa. counties moved to the green phase earlier this month, some residents have been travelling outside Lebanon’s borders to patronize businesses not yet allowed to be open in the county, said Karen Groh, CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
After a Friday morning rally at reopened Heisey’s Diner in North Lebanon Township, Jonestown resident Cathy Hitz said she has left the county to shop and eat at restaurants, but it wasn’t necessarily by choice — she’d much rather be supporting local businesses, Hitz said.
Groh said the chamber is hoping Lebanon residents will keep their local businesses in mind as the county waits one more week to be in the green phase.
“In the same way that our businesses are holding out for one more week under the guidelines, we would hope that our residents would allow that one extra week so that when they’re ready to spend their money … they can do that locally,” Groh said.
Before the rally at Heisey’s, Lebanon resident Barbara Fake said she intentionally hasn’t gone outside the county to shop at businesses allowed to be open under the green phase.
“I will not go out of my county,” Fake said.
Every week counts
Though Lebanon is only a week behind neighbors Lancaster and Berks counties in going green, Groh said that could mean a lot to struggling business owners.
“Every week you’re not operational and not bringing in an income is difficult in any business,” Groh said. “Another week can put even more strain on it.”
At the very least, Friday’s announcement ended weeks of uncertainty for some Lebanon business owners.
COVID-19 stymied a successful launch for Boyer’s Tavern in Rexmont, which opened right before the pandemic took hold in Pennsylvania. On Friday, owner Bobby Angelo said they hired additional staff for their kitchen and table service a few weeks ago, but when Lebanon didn’t get moved to the green phase earlier, they had to cut hours for everybody.
Drawing up a schedule for employees every week has been difficult, Angelo said.
“The most challenging aspect was doing a schedule every week and never knowing if it was going to be right by the time we got to it,” Angelo said. “Obviously very happy we’re moving to the green stage. Obviously we’re looking forward to going to 50% inside seating. We’re just really happy, and hope everyone does the right things, so we can continue to stay green moving forward.”
Some businesses felt they couldn’t wait for the green phase — Mt. Gretna Roller Rink was on the verge of ending its 90-year existence, owner Eunice Heist said. Closing the business in mid-March was difficult to stomach, Heist said, and things got worse as Heist and her husband watched money go out the door over the past four months, with no business coming in.
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Finally, they reached the end of their rope last week. Heist decided to reopen the rink, albeit with reduced capacity, hand sanitizer and other precautions. They were concerned about consequences from the state, and received nothing but support from customers.
Heist and her husband just took over the rink in 2018 — it was a dream for them to keep the history-rich rink going. COVID-19 made them think their dream was coming to an end.
“If we didn’t open up, we wouldn’t be able to keep it going,” Heist said. “We had no choice.”
Nora Shelly can be reached at 717-454-7817 or email@example.com
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